Friday, March 23, 2012

N.Y. Rangers ~ Henrik Will Start Fewest Games in Six Years


NEW YORK RANGERS:  If You Need Something Done, You Have To Do It Yourself.

First Place Atlantic Division ~ #1 in Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins
Second Place Atlantic Division ~ #4 Eastern Conference

Thank you Nashville -  For Nothing!  Pittsburgh won Thursday evening 5-1 over the Predators to close within one point of the Rangers again.  So forget about getting any help from anyone.  We're on our own Ranger Fans.  We have to match Pittsburgh win for win, until we meet them for the final time of the regular season on April 5th.

With an overtime win over Detroit Wednesday evening, the Rangers still hold a precarious lead in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings.  The Blueshirts are now one point shy of reaching 100 points in a regular season for only the seventh time in their history.  But Pittsburgh now has ninety-eight points to discourage any sense of Blueshirt accomplishment.

The Penguins have bull rushed the Eastern Conference with twenty-seven points and a 13-0-1 record over their last fourteen games.  Over the same span, the Rangers have struggled to gain sixteen points in the standings, and have played to an 8-6 record.

Both teams have nine games remaining and will face equally tough competition down stretch.  Neither team will have a discernible advantage in terms of strength of schedule.  The Rangers have games remaining against BUFF this Friday night; then Toronto; Minnesota; Winnipeg; Montreal, Boston; Philadelphia; PITT; and finish against Washington.  The Penguins will play Ottawa next; then New Jersey; and back-to-back games against the New York Islanders.  A game against Buffalo rounds out March.  The Pens will then finish the regular season against Philadelphia; Boston; N.Y.R.; and Philadelphia again.  So I'm not sure one team has an easier itinerary than the other.


Detroit Red Wings   1
New York Rangers  2

Wednesday's game against the Red Wings was the Rangers' third overtime game in March; and sixth in their last seventeen games.  They clearly don't have the fire power Pittsburgh has.  That's why they've been having to take a little extra time lately in trying to secure a second point.  After losing three in a row on the road, the resilient Blueshirts are now 4-2 during the current home stand.

In Wednesday's first period, Brad Richards' took off puck-handling on a line-to-line jaunt up ice that more resembled a football player's run for daylight.  Detroit, who rarely gets caught out of position defensively, found themselves parting the Garden ice like the Red Sea during a Ranger power play.  The fact Henrik Lundqvist received an assist on the play, was truly incidental to Brad Richards' first period tying goal.

The goal came during a lengthening stretch of good games for Richards that gives Coach Torts a measure of vindication for being so patient with his forward, and shielding him somewhat, from the Media.  It was also a goal which Rangers fans hope was a message to us; and well as to his team mates; that he intends on being the difference he was brought here to be.  Your leaders have to be your best players.  Brad Richards is among that group and has started playing the kind of hockey the Rangers greatly need.  Additionally, and probably even more important to the Rangers' cause, his goals have been coming on the power play.  And we all know, no team plays deep into the playoffs without a good power play.


As mentioned, Henrik Lundqvist recorded his second assist of the season.  Look out - He may start to like this sort of thing.  But what he does best is still stopping pucks.  And after allowing Detroit's  Henrik Zetterberg to score just three and a half minutes into the game, he would shut-out the Red Wings the rest of the night.  In all, he stopped twenty-six of twenty-seven shots on goal for his thirty-fourth win of the season.  His career high is thirty-eight wins set in the 2008-2009 season.

Last year, Henrik Lundqvist just missed starting 70+ games in net for the fifth consecutive season as an injury to Marty Biron altered plans to give Henrik more rest.  From 2006 through 2010, Henrik started 70; 72; 70; and 73 games respectively.  Last year he came in at sixty-eight games.  This season however, Martin Biron has been a force as back-up to the King.  When he's kept on his normal schedule, he has flourished.  But when pressed into duty; as in having to start for Henrik when he had the flu; his game, and the defense in front of him, have faltered.  But he has indeed been the best back-up goalie in hockey this season.  He started twenty games this season and has twelve wins.

The plan is to have Henrik Lundqvist healthy,and fresh, heading into the playoffs.  Coach Torts has long maintained Lundqvist was starting too many games in recent years, and that it has left the goalie gassed heading into the Spring Tournament.  Well, as a direct result of the season Marty Biron is having, Henrik has only started fifty-four games to date.  He will not come close to sixty-eight, much less seventy starts this season.  Now we'll start to find out if all this rest will pay off.

The game winning overtime goal?  Ryan Callahan took care of that.  He's developing a knack for that, isn't he?

Up Next - The Buffalo Sabres.  Our last game against them on February 25th wasn't easy.  They too took us into overtime before the Rangers pulled it out.  That game was also won on a Ryan Callahan overtime goal.

The teams have met three times this season in the Battle for the Empire State.  The Rangers have taken all three games.  On February 1st, the Rangers won in a shoot-out.  On December 10, the Rangers overwhelmed the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo.



Buffalo Sabres

33rd Street at 7th Avenue

See you there!

Let's Go Rangers


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